Red Gendron Credit: University of Maine athletics

Dennis “Red” Gendron’s relationship with the University of Maine men’s ice hockey program had plenty of highs and lows.

Gendron, 63, died Friday after experiencing a medical emergency while playing golf at Penobscot Valley Country Club in Orono.

He spent the last eight years of his 34-year coaching career as the head coach at UMaine, that tenure beginning nearly two decades after his initial three-year stint as an assistant with the Black Bears under head coach Shawn Walsh.

Gendron debuted as a coach on the Orono campus in 1990, beginning a tenure that coincided with the rise of the Black Bears into one of the nation’s top college programs.

That run was highlighted by the team’s epic 42-1-2 performance during the 1992-1993 season that produced the first of UMaine’s two NCAA Division I championships in the sport.

Gendron was that team’s associate head coach.

It wouldn’t be Gendron’s last championship experience as an assistant coach. He worked the professional ranks with the Stanley Cup-winning New Jersey Devils of the National Hockey League in 1995 and then back at the collegiate level as associate head coach at Yale University in 2013.

He returned to UMaine as the program’s fifth head coach on May 28, 2013.

Gendron’s overall record at UMaine was 103-130-32 (.449) and his Hockey East regular-season mark was 63-89-21, including 4-13 in conference playoff games.

UMaine, which had captured a second national championship in 1999, did not qualify for the NCAA Tournament game under Gendron.

The program’s best season under his direction came during the 2019-20 campaign when the Black Bears went 18-11-5 and were ranked 15th nationally. The catalyst was Jeremy Swayman, who was named winner of the Mike Richter Award as the nation’s top goalie and who this week made his NHL debut with two straight victories for the Boston Bruins.

The 2019-20 team was seeded fourth for the Hockey East playoffs, but the COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of UMaine’s scheduled conference quarterfinal series against the University of Connecticut.

Gendron was named the 2019-2020 Hockey East coach of the year.

Gendron enjoyed two other winning seasons leading the Black Bears, his first season during 2013-14 (16-15-4) and the 2017-18 campaign (18-16-4).

UMaine struggled last winter, finishing 3-11-2 in a season during which the Black Bears played their entire regular-season schedule on the road due to COVID-19 issues. The team finally got to play at Alfond Arena in the opening round of the Hockey East playoffs, dropping a 7-2 decision to New Hampshire.

UMaine finished 54-54-15 overall, 36-39-12 in Hockey East regular-season contests, during Gendron’s final four seasons. His contract with the university was due to expire on June 30.

Gendron was a three-time hockey captain and 1979 graduate of New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire. He embarked on his coaching career at the high school level in New Hampshire and Vermont.

That was highlighted by a stint as a history teacher and coach at Bellows Free Academy in Saint Albans, Vermont, where he led teams to four state championships during the 1980s.

Gendron’s initial term at UMaine marked his college coaching debut, but after the 1993 championship season he spent the next 11 years in the professional ranks, all with the New Jersey organization.

While with the Devils he earned three NHL championship rings as a coach and twice had his name engraved on the Stanley Cup. Gendron was an assistant coach when New Jersey captured the 1995 title and was first an assistant and then head coach with its American Hockey League affiliate, the Albany (N.Y.) River Rats, when the Devils won subsequent Stanley Cups in 2000 and 2003.

Gendron returned to college hockey in 2005 as an assistant coach at the University of Massachusetts for six years before spending two years at Yale beginning in 2012.

He also was an assistant coach for Team USA during the 1993, 2001 and 2002 World Junior Championships and worked with several U.S. Select-16 and 17 teams.

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...